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How To Master Rhythmic Changes In Your Playing

In this article I am going to present you a great way of how to practice rhythms and rhythmic changes. If you master this exercise, you’ll be eventually able to play any rhythm through any rhythmic change.

First of all, we’ll play each rhythmic pattern one 4/4 measure only, and change it each measure. Firstly you have to set yourself few rhythmic patterns. I usually start with the most common ones: whole note, half note, quarter note, eight note, sixteen note, eight note triplets and sixteen note triplets.

But before we start with rhythmic changes, we have to practice each rhythmic pattern in isolation. For example, play only one note per measure (whole note), and mute it at first beat of next measure. This gives you a feeling of the measure length. Don’t forget to tap your foot on every beat. Easy, right? Then proceed to play half notes, then quarter notes etc. Once again, play each rhythm only one measure and then mute it at the beginning of the next measure. It’s critically important that you feel and acknowledge the length of the measure.

After you’ve practiced each rhythmic pattern in isolation, it’s time to combine those patterns. Now you don’t stop at the end of the measure, but you continue playing a different rhythmic pattern in the next measure. For example, play a whole note in the first measure, half notes in the 2nd, quarter notes in 3rd, eight notes in 4th, eight note triplets in 5th, sixteen notes in 6th, sixteen note triplets in 7th measure and then backwards until you come back to whole note. For now do everything on one note only. Be careful that you play each rhythmic pattern exactly one measure! When it starts to feel easy, you can increase the speed, or even decrease it, you wouldn’t believe how hard it is to play slower rhythms in time at slow speed.

When you feel you’re playing it well enough, you can change the order of rhythmic patterns. You can do it by simply assigning each rhythmic pattern with a number. For example, I have set 7 different rhythmic patterns, so I have numbers from 1 to 7, 1 being whole note, and 7 being sixteen note triplets. Now you can simply write down a few random number orders and play the rhythms in this order. This way you’ll always be challenged and won’t learn the changes, but learn the feeling of rhythmic patterns instead.

As this eventually gets boring when you’re doing it good, here’s the real challenge. Apply this to a scale of your choice. When applying this rhythmic changes to the scale, it’s important to play the scale continuously; If I choose to play a minor pentatonic scale, it has 12 notes, 1st being the first note on the 6th string, and 12th being the second note on the 1st string. Now,  if I play the rhythmic patterns in order from 1 to 7 and back, it would go like this:

– 1st measure = whole note = 1st note (of the scale)

-2nd measure = half notes= 2nd and 3rd note

-3rd measure = quarter notes = 4th to 7th note

-4th measure = eight notes = 8th note to 12th and back to 9th note

-5th measure = eight note triplets = 8th note to 1st and back to 5th note

-6th measure = sixteen notes = 6th note to 12th and back to 3rd note

-7th measure = sixteen note triplets = 2nd note to 1st, back to 12th and back to 1st note

And then backwards from the 2nd note. If the last note of the 7h measure is the 1st note of the scale, or if you finish 14th measure with whole note on the 2nd note of the scale, you’ve done it right!


When you’re feeling comfortable with that, play the patterns in random (pre-written) order or play them over different scale. If you want to challenge yourself even more, you can also add pentoles or septoles. When you can move effortlessly from one pattern to another, you have reached a pretty high level of rhythmic diversity.


This article was written by Nejc Vidmar, a professional guitar teacher, musician, composer and producer from Slovenia.